The Other Issue with Kevin DeYoung and “Game of Thrones”

10 Aug

Kevin DeYoung wrote an article this week on The Gospel Coalition website that has caused a firestorm in the comments section. DeYoung’s piece, “I Don’t Understand Christians Watching Game of Thrones” has more that 250 comments at this point. Many people agree with DeYoung, that watching this sexually explicit and violent HBO series is a no-go for Christians, while others are harshly critical, accusing DeYoung of being judgmental or worse.

My take on this issue is that the controversy reveals a deeper issue with Christians: we have bought into the lie that we must be entertained. Our culture reveres, and revels in, entertainment. Our hours are to be devoted to it, so much so that a leader with the streaming service Netflix recently said that the company’s chief competitor was sleep. Their goal was to hook their subscribers free time to such an extent that they would only put the remote down when physically exhausted.

But does the Bible give us any theology of entertainment? To be sure, we can look to verses which celebrate God’s good gifts. We can look to the ethos of the book of Ecclesiastes, which directs us to enjoy life under the sun. We can see that the Bible is not against food or drink or enjoyment. But the Bible is strongly against idolatry. And I think that is where some Christians go in their need for entertainment. In this regard, the choice of entertainment is not my focus (though I think we should be careful about the kinds of things we choose to watch/listen to). Instead, I am thinking about the volume of entertainment we insist on and the ways we bring ourselves constantly to the throne of sensory stimulation.

What we are doing is not good for us. I would be the last person in the world who would want us our attitude as Christians to fit H.L. Mencken’s definition of a Puritan: “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy.” But I am concerned with my own heart and, in reading the comments in DeYoung’s article, I am concerned with many other Christians with regard to our entertainment obsession.

Why do we feel the need to occupy every free moment with some form of entertainment (often entertainment that isolates us from others)? Why do we give so much time to cell phone games and social media and streaming services and sports and so little time to Scripture and prayer? Why do we eschew opportunities to edify our souls and embrace opportunities to stimulate our senses? We reach for what feels good rather than what is good. This is idolatry, plain and simple.

What is not so simple is how we walk this out day by day. There is not a biblical prescription or command (“30 minutes of entertainment and no more”). Each believer has to work out their entertainment theology with fear and trembling. “You shall have no other gods before me” is really the flip side of the greatest commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” So idolatry is unacceptable in any form to those who want to love God. But how this looks for each believer will vary slightly from person to person and from season to season.

But I also want to say that I think there may be a deeper issue at work here as well. I believe many Christians in America have rejected a theology of suffering that is much more explicit and developed in Scripture than a theology of entertainment. In other words, while the Bible doesn’t tell us to pursue entertainment or to expect entertainment as part of our lives, we are told to expect suffering. In fact, in some way we are to count trials joy for the good they produce in us. But our culture is allergic to not feeling well. If you have a sniffle, get a pill. If you are lonely, fire up Netflix. If you are hungry, the drive-thru beckons. We have created a culture that caters to our whims so when the inevitable empty hours arise, we fill them with entertainment. The problem with this is that these empty hours are God’s will for us. They are the hollow places of life where God shapes us and fills us. Our disconnection from the reality of God is owing not to a lack of God’s presence but to our pushing everything else into the spaces God should fill.

We understand, I think, the need for Christians to embrace suffering in the big things, but we are reluctant to embrace the hundred little sufferings we face every day. A personal interaction that falls flat, an effort at work that is less than stellar, overactive and irritating children, bad news in the world, aging parents, there are dozens of things every day that we face as part of life in a fallen world. How do we handle these things? I think for many of us, we go to entertainment as a way to escape our pain. There is a place for entertainment and we certainly need to choose wisely. But sometimes we need to allow pain to do its work, even the pain of loneliness or emptiness or concern. Maybe we never get far with God and never make much progress with our problems because we medicate our symptoms instead of treating our disease. Applying gospel truth to our hearts, waiting on the Lord, talking to Him, these are all things which are not flashy or immediately stimulating, but they bring to our lives a richness and depth we can find nowhere else. In the end, our lives will be fuller if we empty them a little bit.

One Response to “The Other Issue with Kevin DeYoung and “Game of Thrones””

  1. Scott Welsh August 8, 2018 at 12:59 pm #

    I agree with your article. We need much much more of God through prayer, reading His Word, evangelizing, and serving Him than anything else.

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